Five Australian women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer each day, but with no early detection test and a grim five-year survival rate, undies for awareness are our best defence this Mother’s Day.
Nicky Buckley’s beloved mum Joan died of ovarian cancer 16 years ago and the model and presenter has been raising awareness of the insidious disease ever since. This Mother’s Day coincides with World Ovarian Cancer Day, making it a particularly poignant one for the mum of three.
Each day in Australia, five women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer and two out of three won’t have even heard of it beforehand.
Research from Ovarian Cancer Australia found that compared to other common cancers, 31 per cent of Australians say it’s the one they know least about.
Symptoms, such as bloating and abdominal cramps, are vague and often misdiagnosed, contributing to a five-year survival rate of just 48 per cent.
Buckley’s mother was in her mid-60s and it was difficult to get a diagnosis because her first symptom, significant bloating, was easily dismissed.
“Things got worse; she started to do tests but by the time they discovered the cancer, it was too late,” Buckley said.
At 56, Buckley is aware she’s only a decade away from Joan’s age when she died. The TV personality is vigilant about her health because there still isn’t an early detection test.
“I know a lot of women in the past felt a pap smear detected it, but it doesn’t, that’s for cervical cancer,” she said.
Ovarian Cancer Australia CEO, Jane Hill, believes early screening tests will improve survival rates.
“Research has been done over the past 30 years but it’s likely to be some time before we can get it,” Ms Hill said.
“Ovarian cancer is a group of different cancers, most of them are very aggressive and by the time someone has a symptom it’s quite likely the cancer has spread.
“Mums are saying to me, ‘Jane, I’m worried that my daughter or son may not remember who their mum is’.”
One of those mums is Kerrie Lee Simmons from Caboolture in Qld. She was diagnosed last year aged just 42, when her youngest child was only two.
The mum of four had heard of ovarian cancer, but didn’t know anything about it. When she experienced symptoms including recurring UTIs and a frequent urge to pee, she put it down to having four children.
“I couldn’t look at my youngest without crying,” Ms Simmons said. “I apologised to my older children for cutting my life short. I felt guilty, like I failed them.
“I was concerned for my teenage daughter – she could carry the gene and one day this could be her.”
An early detection test could save her daughter’s life, which is the idea behind the Take on Cancer in Your Undies campaign. Buy a pair of teal undies from Bonds, Jockey, Bras N Things and Coles and 100 per cent of profits will go to Ovarian Cancer Australia.
“Undies make a great Mother’s Day gift because they’re personal, practical and represent a cause,” Ms Hill said.
“The campaign is very simple: get your undies and have the conversation with the people around you about ovarian cancer because it can affect all women.”
Coles general manager corporate affairs, Sally Fielke, said it’s the first time the supermarket is selling the teal underwear and Ovarian Cancer Australia hopes to double the amount raised from last year’s campaign.
“By buying a pair of teal undies, customers will be helping to raise awareness, reduce stigma and ultimately, improve the lives of women living with ovarian cancer,” she said.
This Mother’s Day until Tuesday 24 May, Aussies are encouraged to Take on Cancer in Your Undies by buying Bonds teal underwear, available at 630 Coles supermarkets across Australia.
Originally published as What Mother’s Day means since ovarian cancer took star’s mum